You probably know that vitamin D is important for bone health. It prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults (softening of bones). But did you know it also keeps your immune system strong? New research shows it may even help reduce the risk some forms of cancer.
How Much Vitamin D Do We Need?
Our body can make its own vitamin D with the help of sunlight. However, not everyone gets ample sunlight year round. Age and skin tone can also affect the ability to form vitamin D. The recommended intake from diet assumes minimal sun exposure. It covers your bases even if you live in the more northern parts of the country.
|Children 1-3 years||600 IU (15 mcg)|
|Children 4-8 years||600 IU (15 mcg)|
|Children and Adults 9-70 years||600 IU (15 mcg)|
|Adults > 70 years||800 IU (20 mcg)|
|Pregnancy & Lactation||600 IU (15 mcg)|
Adults should not exceed 4000 IU per day from food and supplements. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so excess amounts are stored in your fat tissue. You don’t just excrete the excess through urine!
How Can you Get Enough Vitamin D From Plants?
Vitamin D is not naturally found in many foods. The only commonly eaten plants that contain it are mushrooms. Foods are often fortified with vitamin D to help us get enough. Plant-based milks are a prime example.
|Vit D (IU)||Portion|
|Fortified plant based beverages|
(e.g. almond or soy milk)
|Fortified Orange Juice||50||½ cup|
|Fortified Breakfast Cereal (e.g. Fruit Loops)||66||1 cup|
|Fortified Margarine||100||1 tbps|
|White Button Mushrooms||7||100g|
How to Find Vitamin D on the Nutrition Label
If a food contains vitamin D it will likely be listed near the bottom of the nutrition panel. The label will tell you percentage of daily value (%DV). For example, if one serving contains 10%DV, that is 10% of the total amount you require for that day.
Vitamin D is rare in our food supply, so many people choose to use supplements to meet their needs. Health Canada recommends everyone over age 50 takes 400IU daily as a supplement. You can find them in two forms, D2 or D3.
Vitamin D3 is the same molecule our body makes with sunlight. D3 supplements are usually animal derived and not vegan friendly. Check the label as algae-based D3 options now exist. D2 is made by plants and has a slightly different structure than what animals produce. It may not be absorbed as well.
Another important vitamin for bone strength is calcium. You need to ensure you’re getting enough of this duo as they only work together!
Weight-bearing exercise like walking and weight lifting also build bone strength. Our bone mass peaks around age 30, so don’t wait until old age to start taking care of it!
Have you started thinking about your bone health? How do you nurture it?
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- Dietitians of Canada. Food Sources of Vitamin D. Retrieved from https://www.dietitians.ca/getattachment/464f3006-0bb2-4f1a-a338-0b21d148bacb/FACTSHEET-Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-D.pdf.aspx
- Health Canada. Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes. Retrieved from http://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/vitamins-minerals/vitamin-calcium-updated-dietary-reference-intakes-nutrition.html
- Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File 2015. Retrieved from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp
- Health Canada. Percent Daily Value. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/understanding-food-labels/percent-daily-value.html
- Tripkovic L., et al. (2012). Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(6), 1357–1364. doi:https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.111.031070
- National Institute on Aging. Osteoperosis. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoporosis